"People first, then money, then things," Suze Orman used to say on her television show. This is a phrase I kept repeating to myself when I booked a flight for my mom to come to Europe. After the flights, train tickets, hotel bookings, and upcoming dinner reservations, I couldn't help thinking: "This is going to be expensive. I am not used to spending money like this."
Don't get me wrong. I have a good salary, I can afford it. But the poor college student won't leave, who still yells at me for spending over $40 on a book. But as soon as my mom came - this worrying about the cost almost completely disappeared.
Because she was here, in my home, at my work, in my Roman neighborhood. She was here, on the Venice canals, in Paris. I watched her every moment, looking at her eyes, watching her dazzled at what she was seeing.
Like a small child, she took it all in. Like a sponge, learning about the world. She was discovering.
"What a gift!" I thought. "What a glorious gift!" To give her the chance to see a part of the world she never would have otherwise.
My mom lives in the Midwest. After working at the same company for 27 years, she recently went back to school and became a nurse at 54 years old. Now she spends her work weeks from 7pm to 7am in one of the most dangerous parts of the city, taking care of the poor and minorities; people who've lived very hard lives.
Of course, my mom and I have a complicated relationship. She gave birth to a boy who would one day carve out his very own life - make his own choices, struggle to become who he really was. At a young age I rejected a lot of what was handed me by the world I was born into. Rejected the "default" sexuality that was not my own, the predetermined religion that was not my own, the city where I didn't belong.
But my mom and I are bounded. By simply love - she's my mom. So, to take her to Zürich, Lucerne, Rome, Venice, and Paris. Small drops in the bucket of a rich life that she gave me so readily, so lovingly and happily. A mom is a mom is a mom is a mom - I can never pay her back for what she's given.
And I am still thinking about her face, her expression as we went to Colosseum or took a boat through the Venice canals or walked under the shade of the Eiffel Tower. The wonder in her eyes; an immeasurable gift.